Sunday, April 29, 2012

A Roast, Snap Beans, and Smashed Potatoes with Gravy

It's the last week of the semester. I should writing a paper rather than a blog post, but . . . 

Mom left a 2 lb. roast in my freezer on one of her trips through town a couple of weeks ago with instructions to thaw completely, rub with garlic salt and pepper and cook in a 350 degree oven for an hour or until the meat thermometer registers 140 degrees. 

Partly due to procrastination and partly because I'm sick and wanted a mom-style meal, I took the roast out this morning to thaw and cooked it, fresh snap beans, and smashed potatoes with gravy for dinner tonight. All were successful, yummy, and not too time consuming on a night when I needed to be able to keep reading/writing during the meal prep. 

I apologize for not having process photos. I didn't think this would be a blog post meal because of time issues this week, but when it turned out well, I couldn't resist. 

To get started, I rubbed all sides of the meat with garlic salt and black pepper, popped it in the oven at 350, and let it cook an hour (30 minutes per pound). Easy? You bet. I let it cook 15 more minutes because the temperature didn't quite get to 140, but I probably could have taken it out at an hour. It would have just been a little rarer. I transferred it to a plastic cutting board and let it cool for at least ten minutes before cutting it. 

I boiled 5 largish red-skin potatoes in salted water for 30 minutes or until a fork easily released from the largest potato. I drained the potatoes and returned them to the original pot. Then, I slightly smashed them and added salt and pepper to taste, a tablespoon of butter, 1/4 cup of half and half, and a rounded tablespoon of sour cream. (shhh... Steve thinks he hates all things with sour cream, but he likes these potatoes.) I continued smashing the potatoes until the sour cream, butter, and cream were incorporated.

Around the same time that I started the potatoes, I threw the snapped snap beans in a pot with water and roasted vegetable paste and let them cook over medium heat for about 30 minutes. 

After the roast was finished and transferred to the cutting board, I placed the roasting pan with drippings over an eye on the stove and added 1 1/2 tablespoons of cornstarch and a sliver of butter. The cornstarch and butter stick to the drippings (I know this is an icky word, but isn't "fat" worse?) and cook over low heat for a minute. Then, I added 1 1/2 cups of water to the mixture and whisk it all together. I cooked this all over low/medium heat for 5 minutes or until it thickened to the desired constancy for gravy.

A note about gravy: We all know it's not the best thing for you, and, because of this fact, it was made only for special meals when I was a growing up. But Steve absolutely loves gravy, so I've tried my hand at it a few times this semester. It's not too difficult once you get the proportions of the oil, starch, and liquid correct, and it sure does taste good. 

Steve gives a thumbs up of approval

Happy Cooking!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A Lulu Sugar Cookie or Two

"Lulu"  is my mother's "grandmother name." And, even though she was making these cookies long before she became a grandmother, I find it a fitting name for her most loved and requested cookie recipe. They are a thin butter cookie with a simple icing that can be cut out and decorated in any shape desired. Growing up, we made these cookies for every possible holiday, bake sale, classroom party, and sometimes just because. We would pick what cookie cutters to use from a huge cookie tin full of them--bunnies, ducks, flowers, shamrocks, hearts, pumpkins, witches, stockings, stars, Christmas trees. Then came the icing, and Mom would spread out wax paper on all the kitchen surfaces and let which ever children were around ice and sprinkle 'til their hearts were content. I have even started making these once a semester for my classes because everyone needs a little sugar and cheering up after taking an exam.

While home for Easter a couple weeks ago, Mom and I made her sugar cookies for a few special people. Here's our process:

Lulu’s Sugar Cookies
Yield: 75 cookies
2 sticks butter (softened)
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups flour 
1 teaspoon baking powder 
1/8 teaspoon salt
Combine butter and sugar in a mixing bowl. Beat with an electric mixer until foamy (at least 5 minutes). Add egg and vanilla. Beat well. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together. Add to the mixture and beat well. 

After the dough is combined well, separate equally and form into two sections. Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight (I've gotten away with putting them in the freezer for 30 minutes or the refrigerator for 2 hours in a pinch, but it works best if you make the dough the night before). 

Take one section of dough out at a time and let it soften for 5 to 10 minutes. Pre-heat the oven to 350. Roll out the dough to roughly 1/8-1/4 inch thick. Cut out desired shapes.

Bake on a lined cookie sheet for about 10 minutes or until just the tiniest bit of light brown come up around the edges. 

Now for the icing: We we use a simple icing made of powdered sugar, water, and food coloring. It takes a lot less water than you think, so I recommend adding it by the tablespoon and stirring it into the powdered sugar completely before adding more. You want it spreadable, but not to thin that it runs off the cookie or too thick that it is hard for the kids to spread easily.  Make sure to use the sprinkles before the icing has completely dried. If you get the icing on the cookies while they are still warm the icing will dry shiny.

Try not to stack them on top of each other until the icing has completely hardened or it will smudge. I hope you enjoy the baking, decorating process, and, of course, the buttery, sugary cookie goodness.